I32 HISTORY OF PERSIA
I propose only to touch very briefly on a few of the stars
in the literary firmament—which are cited in chrono-
logical order rather than in groups—without making any
pretensions to deep knowledge of the subject, which could
be acquired only by a lifetime of study.1
Rudagi.—The first great poet of Persia after the advent
of Islam was Rudagi, who flourished in the first half of
the tenth century ; among the most famous of his poems
is one which he improvised at the request of the army, to
induce his royal patron to quit Herat for the capital It
runs, in Browne's felicitous translation, as follows :
The sands of Oxus, toilsome though they be,
Beneath my feet were soft as silk to me.
Glad at the friend's return, the Oxus deep
Up to our girths in laughing waves shall leap.
Long live Bukhara ! Be thou of good cheer !
Joyous towards thee hastcth our Amir !
The Moon's the Prince, Bukhara is the sky 5
O Sky, the Moon shall light thee by and by !
Bukhara is the Mead, the Cypress he ;
Receive at last, O Mead, thy Cypress tree !
On hearing these lines, the Samanid Amir Nasr
descended from his throne, mounted the sentry-horse and
started off in such haste towards his capital that his riding
boots had to be carried after him ! Few ballads can have
had immediate success of such a practical kind.
Al-Biruni.—As I have shown in Chapter L1L, Persia
towards the close of the tenth century of our era was
divided up among various dynasties, all of which were
patrons of literature, and more especially of poets. Of sur-
passing splendour was the brilliant galaxy that adorned the
court of Sultan Mahmud of Ghazna, who not only attracted
men of letters to his court, but used all his power with
weaker princes to secure their leading literary stars. A
classical instance is his request to Mamun, Prince of
Khwarazm,2 to send al-Biruni and Avicenna to Ghazna.
The former went willingly, but Avicenna refused to go
and took refuge at the court of Kabus.
1 Persian, poetry falls generally under one of the following heading! s i. Kasida.
elegiac or satirical poems. 2 Rubal (pi. Rubaiat), quatraia (our epigram). 3,
double-rhymed poem, the vehicle of epic and didactic poetry,
2 He was a member of the first and lew famous dynasty.